Wait. Where Are These “Gains” NIE Says We Might Lose in Afghanistan?

The latest effort by War, Inc. to prolong the war in Afghanistan consists of a “leak” of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan. The Washington Post dutifully stepped up to transcribe the official line, bleating breathlessly in its headline “Afghanistan gains will be lost quickly after drawdown, U.S. intelligence estimate warns”. Since drawing down our troops closes the spigot feeding war profiteers, we just can’t consider leaving:

A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report.

And if we leave faster, Afghanistan will go to hell faster, according to our Intelligence Oracles:

The report predicts that Afghanistan would likely descend into chaos quickly if Washington and Kabul don’t sign a security pact that would keep an international military contingent there beyond 2014 — a precondition for the delivery of billions of dollars in aid that the United States and its allies have pledged to spend in Afghanistan over the coming years.

As I have long maintained, however, virtually all claims of “progress” in Afghanistan come more from a process of gaming the numbers than any real calming of the country. Consider this post from June of 2012. Note from the figure in that post that violence in Afghanistan varies greatly with the season, but that the peak level of violence increased steadily from 2006 through 2011. I intended to go back to this same source to see how the subsequent years look on the graph, but it appears that these particular reports are no longer published for the general public.

The UN does still release reports on its collection of data regarding protection of civilians in Afghanistan. Noting that the current claim regarding the “success” of the surge in Afghanistan is that it managed to “reverse the Taliban’s momentum and give the government more of an edge”, consider the latest data on civilian deaths that the UN ascribes to anti-government elements in Afghanistan:

Afghanistan civilian AGE deaths


Perhaps, if we consider only deaths, an argument can be made that the rate of increase of deaths has been slowed, but there certainly is no basis for claiming that there is a trend to fewer deaths.

Lurking beneath this dire warning in the NIE is a tacit admission that the $50 billion that the US has spent to train and arm Afghan security forces has been a total waste, since the ANSF will not be able to maintain security once we are gone.

The bottom line is that the entire US war machinery has failed in every single facet of the effort in Afghanistan. Our presence has accomplished nothing but death, destruction and the wasting of nearly a trillion dollars. Our leaving will see further death and destruction. Staying longer would make no difference other than continuing to enrich War, Inc. There are no good options left, but getting our troops out at least stops the hemorrhaging of money.


20 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:


    –Least peaceful nation according to Global Peace
    –Largest illegal opium producer, 95% of world’s market ($64 billion), with 2.9 million opium farmers
    –World’s largest producer of cannabis, up to 3,500 tonnes of hashish in annual production
    –World’s largest producer of heroin
    –Most corrupt country according to Transparency International (tied with Somalia and North Korea)
    –World’s largest source of refugees, continuously since 1980
    –Lowest electricity consumption per capita, 7.6 kWh per person per year
    –Lowest annual energy consumption per capita, 90 kgoe per person per year
    –Highest infant mortality rate, 119.41 deaths per 1000 live births
    –Largest recipient of foreign aid, $6,710,900,000 per year
    –Worst place to grow old


  2. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    Hey Jim, Happy New Year to you.

    I’m always surprised that the wealth in Afghanistan is rarely mentioned. What impact is this having. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/world/asia/14minerals.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    As well as the rare metals I have recollection of an article that outlined how beneficial the Afghan opium could be if redirected towards medical pain control (codeine, morphine, heroine, etc). The article mentioned a shortage of medical use opium and outlined how Afghan production could alleviate this.

    Jim, have you seen any discussion on either of these vast revenue generating opportunities as part of the whole Afghan War picture?

  3. Don Bacon says:

    President Karzai wasn’t consulted, but why should he be? He’s only a US ally, president of a host nation for US troops.


    Afghanistan has rejected a U.S. intelligence forecast that predicts the military gains of the past three years will be significantly rolled back by 2017.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman was quoted by Reuters on December 30 as calling the report “baseless.”

    Aimal Faizi said previous U.S. intelligence reports for Afghanistan had proved “inaccurate,” but did not provide details.

    A new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate predicts Afghanistan would suffer military setbacks by 2017 even if some U.S. troops remained and that Afghanistan will fall into chaos if Washington and Kabul do not sign a pact to keep an international military contingent there beyond 2014.

    U.S. officials say that unless a deal is signed to keep perhaps 8,000 U.S. troops, the Taliban might stage a major comeback and Al-Qaeda could regain safe havens.

  4. Don Bacon says:

    How will Afghanistan cope?
    Not with the US brand of coping.

    Here’s General Malouk, 215th ANA Corps Commander (Helmand) being honest when he said “This (war) is something that’s been imposed by other people from beyond this country.” —

    Maj. Gen. Sayed Malouk emphasized that the public and the ANA have a common goal—peace. He added the ANA soldiers and Afghan civilian are exposed daily to the danger of war.“They’re tired of war,” said Malouk. “They’re frustrated, they no longer want to be in this war. This (war) is something that’s been imposed by other people from beyond this country; and the Afghan (insurgents) who have been fighting against the ANSF, they themselves have been victims of this war. They have been encouraged by those others.” Brigadier Gen. Ghulam Farooq, deputy commander, 215th Corps: “We’ve had continuous war in this country, we’re tired of war and we wish for peace.” — Jun 3, 2012


    Marine Corps Times, Dec 17, 2013

    Have Afghan forces intentionally surrendered turf in Sangin to the Taliban?

    U.S. and Afghan officials are investigating reports Afghan forces have given the Taliban control of multiple checkpoints in Sangin, where hundreds of Marines were wounded or killed during a difficult, years-long fight to secure one of Afghanistan’s most violent territories.

    A story published this week by Khaama Press, an English-language Afghan news agency, suggests members of the Afghan National Army struck a deal with militants to turn over three checkpoints in Sangin, located in Helmand province. It credits the “unconfirmed” report to an unidentified member of Helmand’s provincial council, and notes that a government spokesman, Omar Zwak, disputed the allegation.

    The ANA’s 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps, has oversight of security in Sangin, with Afghan soldiers manning security checkpoints, according to this recent Marine Corps news release from the war zone.

  5. Don Bacon says:

    Happy New Year Jim. You rank with the best.
    You knew Petraeus’s rotten origins — that impressed me.
    How shall we cope w/o Caldwell and Petreaus?
    Lucky for us they had no monopoly on stupidity and chicanery.
    Blog on.

  6. Jim White says:

    @Don Bacon: Thanks Don. Petraeus started pissing me off back during the Iraq days the way he smarmed Congress. And then I found Gareth Porter’s quote where Fallon called Petraeus an “ass kissing little chickenshit” and I knew I would never stop posting about him…

    Keep up your digging. The extra links and comments you bring into the conversation are always valued.

  7. Tosk59 says:

    The “gains” must be these (note the date)!

    From http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-forces-kill-taliban-fighters-who-downed-helicopter/2011/08/10/gIQAxB1A7I_story.html?wprss=rss_politics on August 2011, Marine Gen. John R. Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, had this to say of the Taliban:

    “All across Afghanistan, the insurgents are losing. They’re losing territory, they’re losing leadership, they’re losing weapons and supplies, they’re losing public support,” he said. “More and more, the insurgents are losing resolve and the will to fight.”

  8. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    @Jim White: Hey Jim, conversion of the poppy crop to medical use was something I read about quite a while back. There are arguments against, but isn’t that always the case when a rational alternative is put forward that would reduce the opportunity for war.



  9. Michael Murry says:

    Vietnam, Iraq, and now Afghanistan. Yet another all-expenses-borrowed crusader cruise aboard …

    The Good Ship Memory Hole

    One dark and stormy night this tepid tale
    Began, and waking from a dream, it ended.
    Unmoored, the uncrewed Fantasy set sail
    On twilight seas where day and nighttime blended.
    The empty sky complained to no avail
    About the disbelief it had suspended.

    The tide went out and with it went the boat
    Adrift and rudderless, no one commanding.
    The fog rolled in and swallowed in its throat
    The strangled cry of something dim demanding
    To know the reason why the fishes gloat
    To see a thing beneath their understanding.

    The wind, that vagrant quantity, died down,
    And then arose to drive the ship before it.
    No Ahab paced the deck to rage and frown.
    No fickle fate consented to abhor it:
    That nightmare stream in which the dreamers drown;
    The mind awaiting waking to restore it.

    The whales and dolphins swam along beside.
    The albatrosses soared, the gulls they glided.
    The barnacles hung on to bum a ride.
    The turtles temporized, their time they bided,
    Until the seals would cease them to deride;
    Till someone, somewhere, sane, this scene decided.

    The ocean rudely rolled, the eyes they crossed,
    As stomachs down below grew sour and trembled.
    The passengers turned pale; their lunch they lost;
    And wondered why they ever had assembled
    To voyage to the void at such a cost —
    And who the ticket-selling fraud resembled.

    No Ishmael survived the trip who knows
    Why thought reflected off the waves and scattered,
    Absorbed into the swirling ebbs and flows
    That left the crazy craft careened and battered
    Upon Amnesia reef where nothing grows
    Except forgetfulness of things that mattered.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2009

    January 1, 2014 here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Forty-two years ago today, I returned to South Vietnam after a one-week R&R in Taipei that changed my life. Back again in Taiwan now for good, I wish everyone a Happy New Year, even though the prospects for the U.S. government learning anything from past military debacles do not look promising. “Gains,” indeed.

  10. Don Bacon says:

    @Jim White:

    Admiral William “Fox” Fallon — the flag that didn’t fit in. CentCom Commander Admiral Fallon warned that constant talk of bombing Iran is not helpful. “This constant drumbeat of conflict is what strikes me which is not helpful and not useful,” he said. “I expect that there will be no war and that is what we ought to be working for,” said Fallon. “It is not a good idea to be in a state of war. We ought to try and to do our utmost to create different conditions.” Fallon was subsequently fired by President Bush for his opposition to war with Iran.

  11. Don Bacon says:

    I believe we’re at a turning point in Afghanistan.

    *May 3, 2013: Kerry: This is a pivotal moment for both Afghanistan and Pakistan
    *Mar 8, 2013: Hagel: I believe that we are at a very important moment in this campaign
    *Mar 8, 2013: NYPost: [Hagel’s] unannounced visit comes at a turning point in the conflict.
    *Dec 12, 2012: Panetta: We’re at a turning point. You know, we’ve been in war for 10 1/2 years, almost 11 years, since 9/11. It’s the longest period of warfare in the history — continuous period of warfare in the history of this country. And we’re now seeing a turning point: brought the war in Iraq to an end. In Afghanistan, where I’ll go next, get a chance to look at the campaign plan that General Allen put in place to ultimately draw down in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
    *Dec 14, 2012: Panetta: In many ways, look, we’re at a turning point.
    *Nov 20, 2012: Panetta: We are at a turning point after 10 years of war — over 10 years of war.
    *Sep 27, 2012: Panetta: We did turn a very important corner.
    *Sep 17, 2012: Panetta: Let me just say a few things. As I’ve said before, I think we’re at a turning point, certainly after 10 years of war,
    *June 7, 2012: Panetta: We are, as I said, at a turning point after 10 years of war.
    *May 3, 2012: Panetta: 2011 was really a turning point. In 2011 the Taliban was weakened significantly. They couldn’t organize the kind of attacks to regain territory that they had lost, which is something they have done in the past. So they’ve been weakened.
    * April 18, 2012: Panetta: As I’ve said, 2011 was a real turning point. It was the first time in five years that we saw a drop in the number of enemy attacks.
    * April 17, 2012: Panetta: NATO at ‘Pivotal Point’ in Afghan Mission
    * December 14, 2011: Panetta was less than 34 miles from the Pakistan border when he told U.S. troops they have reached a turning point in the war.
    * April 21, 2011: Gates: ” I think it’s possible that by the end of this year we will have turned a corner just because of the Taliban being driven out, and, more importantly, kept out.”
    * March 15, 2011: “FOB DELHI: International troops in Afghanistan face the prospect of a spring offensive by the Taliban every year – but this time the US-led alliance believes it could mark a real turning point in its favour.”
    * February 20, 2010: “Western officials believe that a turning point has been reached in the war against the Taliban, with a series of breakthroughs suggesting that the insurgents are on the back foot for the first time since their resurgence four years ago.”
    * Sep 9, 2009: Exum: A Grim Turning Point in Afghanistan?
    * August 31, 2009: “Monday marks the end of August, a month with both good and bad news out of Afghanistan — and the approach of a key turning point.“
    * February 6, 2008: “But the ties that bind NATO are fraying badly – and publicly – over just how much each member state wants to commit to turning Afghanistan around. ‘It’s starting to get to a turning point about what is this alliance about,’ says Michael Williams, director of the transatlantic program at the Royal United Services Institute in London.”
    * July 23, 2007: “Taken together these may reflect a turning point in how the war in Afghanistan is to be waged.”
    * September 12, 2006: “The Afghan front is at a critical turning point that imperils many of the hard-fought successes of the early phase of the conflict and the prospects for snaring bin Laden.”
    * September 22, 2005: “Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s foreign minister, called the recent parliamentary elections ‘a major turning point‘ on his country’s path to democracy.”
    * January 27, 2004: “A statement from U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called the enactment of the constitution a ‘turning point for the Afghan nation.’”

  12. Michael Murry says:

    About those U.S. government pronouncements regarding this or that or whatever…

    Official Semantic Spaghetti
    (a sonnet in the style of Edmund Spencer’s Amoretti)

    The fabled Fascist octopus has not
    its swan-song sung, nor has the brownshirt thug
    his jackboot thrown into the melting pot.
    Instead, with shoulders to the wheel they shrug
    and disconnect the dots so as to mug
    the truth, dispensing drivel by design:
    mixed-metaphors a feature, not a bug.
    For, given their longstanding plan malign,
    the wealthy pigs can call the people swine
    who fear the very shadow that they cast
    on cloudy days. They see the darkness shine
    who have no recollection of the past.
    So tipping-points will turn the corner till
    the tunnel at Light’s end has Time to kill.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2012

    As Bullwinkle used to say to the incredulous Rocky the Flying Squirrel each time the hapless moose tried and failed to pull a rabbit out of his magic hat:

    “This time for sure!”

  13. Michael Murry says:

    @Don Bacon:

    Speaking of time-worn euphemisms and discredited metaphors that the U.S. military never tires of repeating as the years of abject failure add up to decades of defeat:

    The Tipping Point Turns the Corner

    Around the next corner the tipping point turns
    As the good ship capsizes and sinks
    While the mad metaphors and flawed figures of speech
    Guarantee that no one really thinks

    So the dots get connected with crayon lines drawn
    By the journalists flogging clichés
    Like astrologers linking the stars into shapes
    Telling fortunes as long as it pays

    At the end of the tunnel the dominoes fall
    As the oil spots to flypaper stick
    With his boots on, George Custer fights to the last man
    Making even the strong stomach sick

    As they stood up, we stood down — just not right away
    With our shoulders to shoulders we marched
    When the morning came corpses piled up in the morgues
    Like some laundry loads unwashed and starched

    Like the city that shines on the top of a hill
    With a thousand or more points of light
    Now the current flows only an hour a day
    So in sweltering blackness they fight

    They’ve a government, now, freely chosen at last
    By the parties that somehow had won
    Our ambassador, though, had to choose their PM
    When we didn’t like what they had done

    Sure, they can’t leave the Green Zone without getting killed
    Our officials, too, travel by plane
    Sneaking into and out of the country unseen
    By the people who think us insane

    But he won’t cut and run says the man who ain’t there
    From his purpose he swears he won’t swerve
    “Bring ’em on!” taunts the juvenile joker in jeans
    Clearing brush on his Texas preserve

    As the world watched in horror, he drove off a cliff
    Then he stumbled around in a daze
    Now he says – after three years of chaos and death –
    That he might have misused a trite phrase

    “It’s as easy as shootin’ a bird in a cage,”
    Says the Texas stud hamster of quail
    When the rodents ride roughshod the feathered will flee
    From the drunken dudes gone off the trail

    And we’ve got us some mantras from Vietnam days
    Like “we’re there ’cause we’re there ’cause we’re there”
    So when once we go somewhere, that means we can’t leave
    Like that German boot-planting affair

    And the logic swirls faster in circles that swim
    Like our friends won’t respect a retreat
    See, they’d rather we kept acting stupid and blind
    Till we wind up a pile of dead meat

    And our foes will not fear us if we should act smart
    Which assumes that they fear us when dumb
    An American innocence, surely, that comes
    From a depth that you simply can’t plumb

    The octopus fascist sings swan songs sedate
    Reinventing the same words and tune
    So the president babbles of going to Mars
    When we can’t even get to the Moon

    Like the light of an oncoming train in the dark
    We see hopefulness ever draw near
    We’re on track, can’t you see, to a glorious dawn
    So we’ll stay the curse, never you fear

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2006

    Seven years and counting later, the mind-numbing mantras and meaningless mumbo-jumbo continue unabated. I call “bullshit” on the brain-dead babble. It seems way past time to add one more Party slogan to Orwell’s infamous three, namely:

    Ignorance is Strength
    Freedom is Slavery
    War is Peace
    Defeat is Victory

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